On the face of it, he is one of the nation’s most successful performers: one of the driving forces behind the hit TV series Little Britain and a respected straight actor. But David Walliams has revealed in an extraordinarily frank interview that he is riven with doubt and fear, harbouring self-destructive thoughts and a desperate need to avoid being alone.
Walliams, who has won three Bafta awards and two Emmys for his work on Little Britain with his comedy partner, Matt Lucas, told Kirsty Wark on Desert Island Discs that, if stranded on an island, his luxury would be a gun so he could shoot himself, so scared is he of his own company.
“I can’t stand being on my own. I hate it. I have a pathological fear of [it],” he said. “When I’m with my own thoughts I start to unravel myself and I start to think real dark thoughts, self-destructive thoughts. If somebody said to me you have to spend a weekend on your own, in your house, I wouldn’t be able to hack it.
“I think there’s something strange about needing a load of strangers to laugh at you. When we were on tour we’d play to sometimes 10,000 people, and some nights it would be amazing and we’d get an ovation. And an hour later I’d be in my hotel room drinking some peppermint tea feeling pretty lost. That’s the terrible thing. It points out how miserable you are. I’ve learned that I have to make plans. I have to see people and do things. I can keep it at bay by being creative.”
Walliams, who has also performed successfully in straight roles on the stage and television – most notably in Harold Pinter’s No Man’s Land, for which he won rave reviews last year – also spoke honestly about his sexuality, a subject of much media speculation. He said that, while he is not gay, he would not rule out a relationship with a man. “I haven’t been in a love that was requited for about seven years,” he said. “I think I got very close to someone and got very hurt and I never really felt like I wanted to be that intimate with anyone again.”
Asked if he would ever have a relationship with a man, Walliams said: “If I fell in love with a man, I wouldn’t say that could never happen. Because I am effeminate, I think, am I gay? But I so love being with women, and so love women’s bodies I think, well, no, I can’t be. But sometimes I think it would be simpler if I was [gay] because everyone thinks I am, because I’m quite camp. But no, I don’t think I am.”
He added that his ideal woman would be his friend Natalie Imbruglia, but she has told him that romance is out of question. “Natalie always makes it very clear that we could never be anything more than friends.”
Walliams also spoke about his cross-Channel swim, which raised £1m for Comic Relief in 2006, saying that it helped him feel “a good person”. “I was definitely looking for redemption,” he said. “I’d got to think I wasn’t a good person. I don’t know why I have that but I struggle with that. And this was something I thought I’d done a good thing.
“I have a lot of self-loathing, and this was something I could be proud about in a simple way.”
Desert Island Discs is on Radio 4 at 11.15am today and repeated on Friday at 9amReuse content